As we head into December, holiday shopping begins in earnest. Today's Cyber Monday is expected to be the busiest ever, as millions have shifted to online purchasing of just about everything during the COVID-19 pandemic. This increasing burst of internet transactions also means more chances for crooks to steal your payment and personal information. Much of the data that criminals are trying to snag this holiday shopping season also can be used during the rapidly approaching 2021 tax season to steal you tax identity and use it to file a fake return claiming a fraudulent tax refund. That's why on... Read more →


Before taking its Thanksgiving break, the Senate released its recommendations for the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the government through fiscal year 2021. Back in July, the respective House committees approved all 12 of their FY21 appropriations bills. Ten of them have been passed by the full House. But officially, Uncle Sam is running right now on stop-gap money. Since the House bills didn't make it through the full legislative process before the 2021 fiscal year began on Oct. 1, a couple of continuing resolutions were enacted. The latest one runs out on Dec. 11. That's why the Upper... Read more →


We don't have an image of D.B. Cooper parachuting from a hijacked jetliner Thanksgiving week 1971, but he did jump out over some dense Oregon woods that likely looked a lot like these. (Photo by ankiyay via Pexels) Last week was the weirdest Thanksgiving holiday ever for many of us. In addition to dealing with possible family confrontations in the wake of the most contentious post-election period in modern memory, we had to adjust to pandemic complicated get-togethers. That's why an anniversary probably slipped by you. During Thanksgiving week 49 years ago, a tall thin man, dressed in a business... Read more →


Millions of Americans have been spending most of their time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. And a good portion of them began holiday shopping online before this Black Friday or the upcoming Cyber Monday. But small businesses are hoping consumers will spend some of those dollars tomorrow, the annual shopping holiday known as Small Businesses Saturday. The event was started in 2010 by credit card company American Express. The U.S. Small Business Administration has officially cosponsored Small Business Saturday since 2011, noting that it has become an important part of small businesses' busiest shopping season. And once again,... Read more →


For those of us of a certain age, and with a skewed sense of humor, one of the best Thanksgiving-themed programs ever was the 1978 "Turkeys Away" episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. The sitcom that brought us memorable characters like radio DJs Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap, good-intentioned but inept newsman Les Nessman and 1970s fashion plate sales manager Herb Tarlek, also gave us, in the episode's words, the greatest turkey event in Thanksgiving history. No turkeys were harmed in the making of the show. In fact, we never see what happened outside the Ohio shopping center. Instead, in... Read more →


It's said that dogs have owners, while cats have staff. It looks that way for this tabby, even though he doesn't seem too interested in this particular breakfast in bed. (Photo by Milda Puga via Pexels.com) I'm not really a big Thanksgiving fan. The holiday, that is. Which is kind of odd given that I enjoyed Turkey Day as a kid. We lived in the same small West Texas town as my Mom's parents, so all her sisters' families showed up there twice a year for the holidays. It was fun to see my cousins. And the food was good.... Read more →


Have coronavirus money troubles forced you to break into some of your next eggs? COVID-19 legislation made getting to retirement money easier, but you probably will still owe tax on the early withdrawals and must deal with a new form to report your distributions (or paybacks) to the IRS at filing time. With the holidays here and no additional immediate COVID-19 economic relief payment in sight, some folks likely have or are considering tapping their retirement accounts. That option was made easier as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted on March 27. It provides... Read more →


A VITA volunteer talks with a taxpayer. Check out the IRS' video on VITA and TCE programs for more on them and how you can participate. Every November, millions of Americans take time around Thanksgiving to acknowledge all the things in their lives for which they are grateful. This year, the coronavirus pandemic is affecting not only how we celebrate Turkey Day, but our assessments of our blessings. It's also reshaped how many of us look at ways we can share our good fortunes. One option is donating to charitable groups that can help out those who have fewer thanks... Read more →


Welcome to Part 9 of the ol' blog's series on 2021 tax inflation adjustments. We started with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. That first item also has a directory, at the end of the post, of all of next year's tax-related inflation updates. In today's post, we look at taxpayer penalties for filing (and paying) late, assessments on tax pros and how unpaid taxes could limit international travel. Note: The 2021 figures in this post apply to that tax year's returns to be filed in 2022. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2020 amounts that... Read more →


It's no secret that COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the 2020 tax filing season. In addition to law changes and a delayed mid-summer filing deadline, previously implemented Internal Revenue Service precautions like shutting down offices are continuing to cause problems. Those closures likely helped prevent coronavirus infections among IRS personnel, but they also produced a massive mail backlog, estimated at one point by none other than the agency's commissioner at more than 12 million pieces of U.S. Postal Service material. Those snail mail envelopes included tax payments. But since they weren't opened, the IRS didn't account for them and its automated... Read more →


Soldiers from the Louisiana National Guard responding after Hurricane Laura destroyed much of Lake Charles. The Capital One Tower was among the properties severely damaged by the category 4 storm. (Photo by Josiah Pugh via Flickr/Wikipedia Commons) Hurricane season 2020 is almost over and Nov. 30 cannot get here soon enough for Louisiana residents. The Pelican State was pummeled by five storms this record-breaking year, including a category 4 which produced the strongest cyclonic wind speeds ever recorded in the state. So state officials are giving folks who are still trying to rebuild in the storms' wakes a chance to... Read more →


Welcome to Part 8 of the ol' blog's series on 2021 tax inflation adjustments. We started with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. That first item also has a directory, at the end of the post, of all of next year's tax-related inflation updates. In today's post, we look at the tax considerations of U.S. taxpayers living and working abroad. Note: The 2021 figures in this post apply to that tax year's returns to be filed in 2022. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2020 amounts that apply to this year's taxes, due April 15, 2021.... Read more →


Among those who need to pay particular attention to this coronavirus money deadline are some college students, families who get government benefits and homeless individuals. If you didn't get a COVID-19 economic relief payment or didn't get all to which you were entitled, you can still apply for the financial help this year. But act soon. Really soon. The deadline to let the Internal Revenue Service know you're due some of the relief money is 3 p.m. this coming Saturday, Nov. 21. Note not only the date but also the time. That's 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, not your local... Read more →


As we continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is thinking about masks. The Internal Revenue Service, however, has been working on masking rules for a while and, coincidentally in this year of COVID-19, has taken steps to offer added protection for taxpayers. The IRS masks are not literal covers. In fact, they lessen, not add. But the reductions will mask — that is, make it more difficult to see — personal and business identification numbers and information on common tax documents. And that should help reduce tax identity theft. Last four Social Security digits: This summer, the IRS... Read more →


The coronavirus pandemic has created challenges for Internal Revenue Service's law enforcement branch, but also was part of its successes during the last fiscal year. During the 2020 accounting period, which started Oct. 1, 2019, and ran through Sept. 30, 2020, the IRS' Criminal Investigation (CI) Division initiated nearly 1,598 investigations and identified $2.3 billion in tax fraud schemes. Some of those investigations were into COVID-19 related illegal activity. "Unfortunately, criminals don’t stop committing crimes just because there is a national health emergency. In fact, some criminals pounce on the opportunity to take advantage of others as well as government... Read more →


It's no surprise that bad people take advantage of bad situations. That's why as we continue to cope with COVID-19, pandemic-related scams — tax and otherwise — proliferate. The latest coronavirus tax scam arrives via a text message. COVID-19 text scam warning: It was created by thieves who are trying to trick people into disclosing bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment (EIP), according to the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners. This scam's text message tells recipients: "You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further... Read more →


Remote work has been among the many COVID-related challenges of 2020. Many employees have appreciated the added flexibility and no commute. Those who aren't that social say they've been more productive since they haven't had to spend time schmoozing with coworkers and bosses. The experience has many workers and companies exploring whether widespread working from home will — or should — continue once the coronavirus pandemic is under control. It's also raised tax questions, including an intriguing and unexpected one. A major European bank says that employees who work from home (WFH) should pay for the opportunity via a new... Read more →


Of course 2020 has multiple Fridays that fall on the 13th of the month. The year's first was on March 13, right when as a nation we were realizing that COVID-19 would define everything about this year, and beyond. Back then, I offered 13 good luck tax breaks. Today, Friday, November 13, 2020, arrives as we're dealing with a resurgence of the coronavirus. So it seem appropriate to revisit that first list of 13 tax opportunities that could ease some of your tax fears on this traditional day of superstitions, while we're in the midst of a pandemic and beyond.... Read more →


Welcome to Part 7 of the ol' blog's series on 2021 tax inflation adjustments. We started with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. That first item also has a directory, at the end of the post, of all of next year's tax-related inflation updates. Today's post looks at next year's changes to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) calculations, as well as Social Security and nanny tax changes. Note: The 2021 figures in this post apply to that tax year's returns to be filed in 2022. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2020 amounts that apply to this... Read more →


Photo by Wyatt via Pexels.com When the clock struck 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, it marked the armistice between World War I's Allied forces and Germany, ending the fighting on the Western Front. The commemoration to honor the 4.7 million Americans who served — and the 116,500 who died — in what then was called the Great War originally was celebrated as Armistice Day. That name and the annual ceremonies continued in the United States until 1954. That year the Nov. 11 commemoration was to Veterans Day and its scope widened to honor veterans from all eras. But even... Read more →